Canadian Forest Service Publications
Temporal trends of ecosystem development on different site types in reclaimed boreal forests. 2015. Pinno, B.D.; Hawkes, V.C. Forests 6(6):2109-2124.
Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 36120
Availability: PDF (download)
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Forest development after land reclamation in the oil sands mining region of northern Alberta, Canada was assessed using long-term monitoring plots from both reclaimed and natural forests. The metrics of ecosystem development analyzed included measures of plant community structure and composition and soil nutrient availability. Early seral reclamation plots were grouped by site type (dry and moist-rich) and age categories, and these were compared with mature natural forests. There were few significant differences in ecosystem metrics between reclamation site types, but natural stands showed numerous significant differences between site types. Over time, there were significant changes in most plant community metrics such as species richness and cover of plant community groups (e.g., forbs, shrubs, and non-native species), but these were still substantially different from mature forests 20 years after reclamation. Available soil nitrogen did not change over time or by reclamation site type but available soil phosphorus did, suggesting that phosphorus may be a more suitable indicator of ecosystem development. The significant temporal changes in these reclaimed ecosystems indicate that studies of ecosystem establishment and development on reclaimed areas should be conducted over the long-term, emphasizing the utility of monitoring using long-term plot networks.
Plain Language Summary
Using understory plant community and soil nutrient data from long-term monitoring plots, we studied forest growth after land reclamation in the oil sands mining region of northern Alberta. The plant community changed significantly over 20 years, but it was still different from mature natural forests in the area. In terms of soil nutrients, nitrogen did not change over time or by reclamation treatment; phosphorus did change, suggesting that phosphorus may be a more suitable indicator of ecosystem development. Overall, this research highlights the importance of long-term monitoring of reclaimed forest land and offers a cautionary note against using early ecosystem characteristics as a measure of long-term forest ecosystem sustainability.